The world’s fastest marathon runner and Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge has enjoyed a dazzling career for the best part of 15 years. The incomparable Kenyan long distance star says that learning to cope with a high level of expectation is his greatest obstacle.
Handling the pressure of expections
“The greatest challenge of my career has been learning how to handle the pressure. In my younger days, I used to struggle. I couldn’t sleep before races and I couldn’t eat on the morning of my race.
“I used to find the tension before a race really hard. I used to put myself under too much pressure and the tension built up.
“However, it was after I transferred to competing in the marathon that I learned to handle the pressure better. The tension is still there; but now I can eat before a race when I used to get very nervous.
“My coach Patrick Sang told me about the importance of the mind and I put in a number of techniques to support that. One of them was trusting that I had the best training behind me but the other was believing that I was the best.
“When I first moved to the marathon, the pressure was big at the beginning. But I tried to relax before a race and keep my mind free. I won my debut marathon in Hamburg – that was key. I won that race and it gave me a new belief.
“In terms of trusting in my training, I aim for consistency and I treat the sport professionally.
“I have been lucky in that I have not had too many injuries. I’m serious about looking after my body. I do stretching. I’m careful about massage. For a month of every season I carry out gym work. I do the maximum I can to build up good conditioning.
“I maintain my motivation because I want to inspire the youth to like sport. Sport is life, it is healthy. I like running. I set my goals at the beginning of each year
“I have no regrets about my younger career. I don’t look back. I am satisfied I have come to terms with handling the pressure.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF